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Seattle School Board Gets Official Word On Confusing Vote

Ann Dornfeld

Seattle Public Schools officials have determined the result of a confusing school board vote Wednesday night. As KUOW's Ann Dornfeld reports, the board wasn't clear about whether it had voted to hire a Teach for America teacher or not.


Some parents and teachers object to hiring Teach for America teachers because they aren't fully certified.

At Wednesday's meeting, one board member was absent. Six were present. Three voted in favor of the hire. Three abstained.

District General Counsel Ron English later announced that with as many abstentions as "yes" votes:

Ron English: "I do not know whether the motion passed or failed."

He said he'd have to research the parliamentary procedure known as Robert's Rules of Order. According to Robert's Rules, abstentions don't count as votes.

That would mean the motion passed.

But some organizations require a "yes" vote from a majority of members present for a motion to pass.

In that case, last night's motion did not pass.

Seattle School Board bylaws don't indicate whether passage of the average motion requires a majority vote or a majority of the members present.

Now the district general counsel has determined that the default in Robert's Rules is a majority vote.

So the motion to hire a Teach for America teacher passed.

But the protocol issues don't end there. Phil Gore is with the Washington State School Directors' Association.

Phil Gore: "It's not typical for board members to abstain from voting on a matter unless they do have a specific conflict on the issue."

The board members who abstained last night cited concerns about the legality of a Teach for America teacher working with the many special education students who take general education classes.

Phil Gore: "If they needed more information or if they were concerned about the legality of an issue, we would encourage boards to delay a vote and find more information or seek their board counsel on the matter."

Gore says he will discuss the matter with Seattle's board members at this week's statewide legislative assembly.

I'm Ann Dornfeld, KUOW News.

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